Posted on Thursday 12 May 2011 by Ulster Business

Bmibaby - Belfast City Airport

Low cost airline bmibaby has further expanded its footprint at George Best Belfast City Airport by announcing seven new European routes.

New flights are on sale to Malaga, Alicante, Palma, Faro and Ibiza for summer 2012, plus a year round service to Amsterdam and winter flights to Geneva. While those routes are mostly served by other carriers from Belfast International Airport, bmibaby's managing director Julian Carr said it made sense for the company's first foray into Europe from Belfast to be on tried and tested routes. "At the end of the day we are a business and we will chase commercial opportunities like any other business does," he told Ulster Business. "The Malagas and Alicantes are bread and butter to low cost airlines. People want to use the services of low cost carriers to get to the south of Spain. That's why we're very confident these will work." Mr Carr said the carrier would consider increasing frequencies on routes such as Amsterdam and looking at additional routes if the demand exists for them. "If things perform as we expect them to do, we would be foolish not to look at other opportunities. These new routes are exciting opportunities and they are also the start of us looking at whether we can do even more out of City," he said. "If we can get to the South of Spain we can get to pretty much the whole of Europe. We don't genuinely have any plans behind the scenes to launch anything on top of this at this stage. But if this does work and people want to fly these routes, then we do very much expect that a future step could be other European destinations." Bmibaby, which earlier this year commenced flights from Belfast to Stansted from City Airport, will base two additional 737-300 aircraft at the airport. They will be moved from Cardiff at the end of the summer season, meaning the airline's Belfast-Cardiff route will cease. The announcement marks the first regular European services to fly from the airport – something other carriers including Ryanair said they would not be able to do from City Airport without a runway extension. But bmibaby said that making technical adjustments to its aircraft engines to a setting known as B2 would give it the additional thrust needed to take off from the shorter runway. Mr Carr said a number of other carriers in Europe already use 737-300 aircraft on this power setting. Chief Executive Brian Ambrose described the European flights as "the most significant announcement in Belfast City Airport's recent history" and "the realisation of one of (the airport's) long held ambitions". Mr Ambrose said that after having lost around a third of its business when Ryanair pulled out of Belfast late last year, the additional services from bmibaby meant the airport was now back to the position it had been in before Ryanair's exit. The airport chief said that despite some airlines being able to range European flights from the airport, it still intended to pursue the extension of its runway to allow other carriers with different aircraft to do the same. The extension is held up in planning after objections from residents who believe it would increase noise and air traffic levels. Mr Ambrose said there would be no change to the airport's planning agreement of 48,000 flights a year and no difference with flight times or noise.

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